June 22 in Sports History: The Hand of God

In 1986: Diego Maradona of Argentina scored the most controversial goal in World Cup history. Playing against England in the quarterfinals in Mexico City, Maradona knocked an errant back pass into the net for a 1-0 Argentina lead. It was obvious to everybody: The 115,000 in attendance, English goalie Peter Shilton and even Maradona himself that the ball was punched into the net. Only referee Ben Naceur missed the illegal handball. Maradona scored again (this one with his feet, and it was voted the Goal of the Century) to lead Argentina to a 2-1 victory and eventually the World Cup title. Maradona didn’t even try to cover up the fact the goal was bogus afterward, saying that it was the “Hand of God” that guided Argentina.

In 1994: Host United States won its first World Cup soccer game since 1950 with a shocking, 2-1 upset of heavily favored Colombia before 93,000 at the Rose Bowl. Andres Escobar of Colombia scored an own goal into his team’s net for what proved to be the game-winner. The United States also got a goal from Ernie Stewart and held off a late rally to send the huge crowd into a frenzy of U.S.A! U.S.A! chants. The Americans would advance past the first round for the first time since 1934. It would turn tragic 10 days later, however. Outside a night club in Colombia, Escobar was murdered by an unknown assailant.

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